People First Radio
People First Radio
Elite youth athlete mental health

The University of Toronto’s Katherine Tamminen says that we don’t know much about the mental health of young people involved in high level sport.

“There is a lack of research on the mental health of elite youth athletes compared to adult athletes who are at those elite levels,” she said.

Tamminen says it’s important that sporting environments don’t prioritize performance to the point of being detrimental to a young athlete’s overall well-being.

“Some of the tensions that arise can be around, this idea of a win at all costs mentality that is not something that just permeates from the athlete, but that they’re experiencing from their coaches whose own jobs and performance might depend on how the athlete performs,” she said.

Those situations could create stigma, if athletes fear repercussions for raising concerns about their well-being, says Tamminen.

“They might feel like, ‘well, if I don’t make it on this team, then I might not have another chance,'” she said.  “That might lead to them not talking about it, or if they do talk about it, it might get kind of brushed under the rug or downplayed, because we have to keep going, we have to keep performing.”

“If we can try to de-stigmatize that topic of mental health and also remove some of those potential consequences that we fear when it comes to talking about mental health in sport, I think that that could be really helpful.”

She says that the idea of not needing to fear that asking for help could cause career repercussions is something that could benefit all of society, not just those in the sporting world.

“I think a lot of people would probably benefit from that reduction in the stigma associated with talking about mental health.”

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